Detroit — The Red Wings used the schedule to their advantage Wednesday, what with no game in sight for another two days and some rare time to concentrate on the weight room.
An optional on-ice practice was geared toward individual drills, there was an emphasis after practice on a detailed off-ice workout, and certain veterans got the luxury of another day off from the ice (such as Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk).
It’s rare an NHL team gets three full days off on the schedule this time of season, almost impossible.
So the Red Wings are attempting to make the most of it, especially recharging the mind and strengthening the body.
“A get-better day,” is what assistant coach Tony Granato called it. Granato ran the practice with assistant Pat Ferschweiler, as head coach Jeff Blashill was on his way to scout minor league affiliate Grand Rapids.
“This has been planned for some time now,” Granato said. “When we looked at the schedule, that’s one thing Blash sat down with Mike Kadar (strength and conditioning coach) and decided what days we can get our workouts in and this was an obvious one.
“We did it a few weeks ago when we had the same type of schedule and it worked out good. With the way the schedule has been, it’s been difficult to keep your off-ice workouts in. This was a good day (to concentrate on off-ice).”
The Red Wings don’t play again until Friday when they host Vancouver.
There was no practice scheduled Tuesday and after playing 10 games in 20 days. The playing-every-other-day-grind has been extensive.
“We can regroup,” forward Justin Abdelkader said. “We’ve had a lot of games over this stretch. It’s nice to be able to work on some skills and get ready for Friday.”
The staff split the forwards and defensemen, each position group working on their own, something that’s difficult to do during the course of a typical regular-season practice.
“There’s always some things (you want to work on), and it’s so busy in practice,” Granato said. “You want to focus on some things together and today was a good day to do that.”
Though it’s been a couple of days, losing a late third-period lead to Buffalo — and losing the game — still was gnawing at the Red Wings.
And it’s an area the Red Wings want to clean up and improve on in the weeks ahead.
“It’s a huge concern,” Abdelkader said. “A lot of these games are one-goal games and when we’re up we want to put these teams away.
“We need to do a better job of not sitting back on our heels and (instead) pushing back on teams.”
The Red Wings want to spend time in the opponent’s zone and limit turnovers, an area that’s particularly been a concern for some time.
“We’ve been talking about it way too many times,” said defenseman Niklas Kronwall of the turnovers. “Giving up too many chances, turnovers. It’s an area we have to get better.”
They weren’t artistic or flashy, but the Sabres did provide a good example as to getting the puck to the net and scoring two opportunistic goals.
It’s something the Red Wings can learn from.
“A team like Buffalo, they get pucks on the net and look for rebounds, crash the net hard,” Abdelkader said. “We have to get back to that a little more.”
The Red Wings had a power play midway in the third period, and failed to convert, just before the Sabres rallied with their two goals.
“When you get that opportunity you have to make sure you bear down and get something out of it,” Kronwall said. “You get to 2-0, I’m not saying you’re putting it away, but you make it harder for them.”
Hold ’em, fold ’em
The Red Wings’ annual charity poker tournament took place Wednesday night benefiting the Detroit Red Wings Foundation.
Tomas Tatar is generally considered the team’s best poker player, but he was ill and not likely to participate.
So who was going to be last man standing?
“Smitty (Brendan Smith),” Abdelkader said. “He always seems to be in it late.
“It’s a little luck (but) guys like to say skill is involved too,” Abdelkader said.
Abdelkader, incidentally, isn’t much of a poker player.
“Blackjack, if anything,” Abdelkader said.